Biden denies he sexually assaulted former aide, calls on National Archives to release complaint
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Friday denied that he sexually assaulted a former Senate aide, addressing the allegation publicly for the first time under increasing pressure from his party to speak about it.
"I want to address allegations by a former staffer that I engaged in misconduct 27 years ago," Biden said in a written statement released by his campaign. "They aren't true. This never happened."
The statement was released shortly before Biden was to appear on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Biden also called on the National Archives to release any record of a complaint Reade says she filed. "If there was ever any such complaint, the record will be there," he said.
He attempted to show solidarity with the MeToo movement even as he firmly repudiated the accusations from former Senate aide Tara Reade, who claims he reached under her skirt and penetrated her 27 years ago.
"While the details of these allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault are complicated, two things are not complicated. One is that women deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and when they step forward they should be heard, not silenced. The second is that their stories should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny," he said in his statement.
Biden also attacked President Donald Trump, saying "we have lived long enough with a President who doesn't think he is accountable to anyone, and takes responsibility for nothing. That's not me. I believe being accountable means having the difficult conversations, even when they are uncomfortable. People need to hear the truth."
Biden's campaign had previously denied the allegations by Reade, who worked in Biden's Senate office for nine months ending in 1993. But for weeks, the former vice president had been silent about her accusation. This week, demands from within his party to address it grew louder, and with each public appearance came scrutiny that began to eclipse the ideas and themes he was trying to promote.
Democratic and Republican leaders also came under intensifying calls to weigh in, triggering an explosive and often partisan debate. For many Democrats, the allegation was an uncomfortable topic that forced them to try to reconcile their support for Biden with advocacy for many women who come forward with claims of sexual assault against powerful men. For some top Republicans, it was occasion to accuse Democrats of a double standard.
Trump, Biden's expected general election opponent, said Thursday that Biden "should respond" to the accusation, which Trump said he "didn't know anything about." The president suggested that Reade's account could be a "false accusation," a topic he said he knew well. More than 20 women have accused the president of sexual misconduct over the years, prompting a series of denials.
Trump said Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was "falsely charged" during his nomination hearings of sexually assaulting a woman when they were both teenagers in high school and said that what Kavanaugh endured was a "disgrace to the country."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has accused Democrats of abandoning the criticism and skepticism they applied to Kavanaugh when it comes to Biden.
"I think what most Americans would like is sort of a symmetrical evaluation of these allegations rather than what we have seen at least so far," McConnell said on Fox News Radio this week.
Some Democrats have reached a similar conclusion, and have expressed frustration that their party leaders have not been more vocal. Many top Democrats have been reluctant to weigh in publicly at length, but have defended him when asked about the accusations.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that she has "a great comfort level" with how Biden had addressed the allegation - although at that point he had not spoken about it - and called him "a person of great integrity." Other Democrats have demanded more details from Biden.
Biden has declined a request for an interview with The Washington Post. His campaign has repeatedly said Reade's claims are not true.
Reade's accusation that Biden reached under her skirt and penetrated her in 1993 was the first allegation of sexual assault made against him. In 2019, several women said Biden had been overly affectionate in a way that made them uncomfortable in previous interactions.
Reade said last year in interviews with The Post and with other outlets that Biden had put his hands on her shoulders and neck when she was working in his Senate office. She said that she had complained about it to more senior aides in the office, but those aides told The Post they had no recollection of Reade's claim.
Last month, in a podcast interview, she alleged that the then-senator had assaulted her after pushing her against a wall somewhere on Capitol Hill.
The Post published a detailed examination of her account two weeks ago in which one of her friends confirmed that Reade had told her of an incident shortly after she said it had occurred. Reade's brother, Collin Moulton, also told The Post that she had told him in 1993 that Biden had touched her neck and shoulders. Several days after the interview, he said in a text message to The Post that he recalled her telling him that Biden had put his hand "under her clothes."
In an interview published by Business Insider on Monday, Lynda LaCasse, a former acquaintance of Reade, said Reade had told her of an alleged assault in the mid-1990s, when they lived in the same California housing complex. LaCasse on Wednesday confirmed those details to The Post.
"She told me that Joe Biden sexually assaulted her," she wrote in a text message. "She said that he had put her up against a wall, put his hand up her skirt and his fingers inside her."
She added that she is "a very strong Democrat" and was supporting Biden for president.
"I believed Tara at the time she told me that Mr. Biden assaulted her, and I continue to support her now," she wrote. "I feel that the truth needs to be told."
Lorraine Sanchez, who worked with Reade in California after her tenure in Washington, told Business Insider that Reade had told her she "had been sexually harassed by her former boss while she was in DC and as a result of her voicing her concerns to her supervisors, she was let go, fired." But Reade herself has given various reasons for her departure.
The corroboration from the women came several days after a 1993 call to Larry King's CNN talk show surfaced.
In the clip, a woman whom Reade identified as her now-deceased mother called to report unspecified "problems" her daughter was having with her employer, whom she called "a prominent senator." The caller said her daughter did not want to go public with her account "out of respect for" the unnamed senator.
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The Washington Post's Annie Linskey and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.